Half a million lives could be saved under ambitious plans to “fundamentally reset how the NHS is run” in England over the next decade, health chiefs claim today.
The NHS long-term plan involves greater use of hi-tech treatments and diagnostic testing and could prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases.
NHS England chief Simon Stevens said the plan also “tackles head on” the pressures faced by health staff – but the service and the Government were under pressure to set out how it will recruit extra staff to ease the strain on its members and address the “harsh realities” faced by workers.
More than three million people will benefit from improved stroke, respiratory and cardiac services over the next decade, it is claimed. About 23,000 premature deaths could be prevented by putting 100,000 people with heart complaints through a healthy living and exercise programme every year.
And the plans aim to ensure three-quarters of cancers are diagnosed early, when they can be treated more successfully, up from half at present.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the 10-year plan would “provide the best possible care for every major condition, from cradle to grave”, using the £20.5 billion a year funding boost promised by 2023/24.
But shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said “the Tories have spent nine years running down the NHS, imposing the biggest cash squeeze in its history” and now “need 10 years to clear up the mess they have made”.
Under the plan there will be a £4.5 billion boost for primary and community care. Investment in mental health services will rise to at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24 – a move which has been praised by mental health charity Mind.
About two million more people who suffer anxiety, depression or other problems can expect to receive help over the next decade.
Mr Stevens said the plan “keeps all that’s good about our health service and its place in our national life”.
He said: “It tackles head on the pressures our staff face.
“And it sets a practical, costed, phased route map for the NHS’s priorities for care quality and outcomes improvement for the decade ahead.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “We are really pleased to see that mental health is such a key focus in the NHS long term plan and we welcome the £2.3bn set aside for mental health services.
“This is the kind of sustained investment we need to see to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health and, if delivered, this plan will make a difference to the lives of thousands of people with mental health problems. Everyone now needs to work together to develop the workforce needed and to deliver these plans and to ensure the money reaches the frontline.
The plan is due to provide mental health help to 345,000 more youngsters through the expansion of “community based services”, including in schools.
Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, said the investment could “fundamentally reset how the NHS is run” for a growing and ageing population to “get the right care at the right time and in the right place.
“This means breaking down organisational barriers to take a more holistic approach to how care is delivered and paid for, embracing new and existing forms of technology, recruiting and retaining the right number of staff, and shifting the focus away from hospitals to prevention and care in the community.”
The Government has promised to recruit tens of thousands more health professionals – but its full workforce plan is not expected until later this year.
Dame Donna Kinnair of the Royal College of Nursing said: “When existing services are already under strain, NHS staff are waiting for a further plan to address the extra staff needed to keep care at the highest quality.
“The NHS in England is already short of more than 40,000 nurses and the figure is rising. NHS England and the Government must urgently address these chronic shortages to make the plan the success it deserves to be.”
And the British Medical Association council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “We need to see practical solutions to these immediate and very serious issues as well as the grand long-term ambitions.
“However, when there are over 100,000 staff vacancies in the NHS, the Government’s aspirations for the NHS are groundless if we don’t have the staff to deliver it.”